Performance Measurement

Every five years, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission completes a master plan that provides guidance on what universities and colleges should be doing for the state. There was just one problem with it. “It wasn’t paid much attention to by the institutions, I think, because there wasn’t much linkage between the state goals and the funding,” said David Wright, chief policy officer for the higher education commission. “The funding was based on (student) enrollment. The formula itself, even for all of its faults, had not been fully funded since the mid ’90s. Nothing was driving institutional behavior other than their own institutional goals or institutional statistics.

While MAP-21, the surface transportation authorization bill approved by Congress this summer, had numerous provisions (and a few notable omissions), observers say the legislation’s establishment of transportation performance measures is one of the key reforms with the potential to be truly transformative for the federal-aid highway program. National transportation goals will be emphasized and there will be important roles for state governments and metropolitan planning organizations in developing performance measures and targets. CSG has long been a supporter of state performance measurement initiatives through efforts like our States Perform website. That’s why we jumped at the chance to host an upcoming webinar for Cambridge Systematics that will help the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) design a performance reporting approach that policymakers at all levels will find useful.

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface  transportation programs, and much of the transportation funding states received from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is gone. While some state and territorial governments (“the states”) have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here are the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface transportation programs. The previous legislation, known as SAFETEA-LU, officially expired in 2009 and the programs have been operating under a series of temporary extensions since then, the latest of which expires at the end of March. The primary cause of the delay in approving a SAFETEA-LU successor is of course money. The federal gas tax in recent years has not produced the kinds of revenues it once did and faces an unsustainable future. The Highway Trust Fund, which relies on the gas tax, has required frequent infusions of cash to continue programs. Yet the still struggling economy and other factors have made efforts to seek new revenues to fund transportation politically impossible. While some state governments have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here is my expanded list of the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

I blogged previously about last week’s National Transportation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. You can read my previous postings on the appearance by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and the panel with five former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation here and here. But the forum also featured several other panels with transportation advocates, stakeholders and analysts weighing in on what might be needed to convince the public and their leaders that now is the time to move forward on infrastructure investment. Among the questions they addressed:

  • How can transportation advocates win support for projects and investment in the post-earmark era?
  • What’s the best way to identify the most “shovel-worthy” projects?
  • Can more accountability and transparency in transportation programs help win back a public skeptical of government?
  • Will an injection of politics into transportation policy help or hinder efforts to move forward on infrastructure?
  • What words does the public respond to best as policy makers try to make the case for infrastructure investment?
  • What’s the best way to emphasize the impact of infrastructure on economic development and job creation?
  • How can developing a plan and vision for transportation at all levels of government and demonstrating visible benefits to the public help advance the cause?

Here is some of what the panelists at the Miller Center forum had to say on those issues.

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday voted unanimously to move forward a bipartisan transportation authorization bill known by the acronym MAP-21. In the latest issue of CSG’s Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter I look at why there may still be a long road ahead before legislation is signed into law. Here is some additional analysis of the bill and its prospects. I also have updates on the potential for a gas tax increase in Iowa and the future of tolling in Washington State.

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. Richard Norment is the Executive Directorof the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships (NCPPP), a non-profit organization of representatives of both the public and private sectors, working to promote the use of public-private partnerships for improved delivery of public services and infrastructure. During his remarks to policy academy participants, Norment discussed the reasons states are exploring public-private partnerships to fund transportation projects and his six keys to successful partnerships.

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. James Corless is the Director of Transportation for America, a coalition of over 400 organizations working to promote a new national transportation policy. During his remarks to policy academy participants, Corless discussed the uncertainty surrounding the future of the federal transportation program, the need to focus on performance measurement and system improvement and how the federal role in transportation is likely to change going forward.

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. Joshua Schank is President and CEO of the Eno Transportation Foundation, a non-profit foundation with the mission of improving transportation policy and leadership. During his remarks to policy academy participants, he discussed the legacy of 2005’s SAFETEA-LU legislation authorizing federal surface transportation programs, the need for a new focus and reasons for optimism about the current debate over a SAFETEA-LU successor.

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. Emil Frankel is the Director of Transportation Policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center and an independent consultant on transportation policy and public management issues. During his remarks to policy academy participants, Frankel discussed the politicization of transportation policy, the future of transportation funding and why the federal program is ripe for reform.

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